Police: ‘Newbie’ gunman in attack on Saudi preacher and envoy, not suicidal
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Police authorities here admitted they have not identified the group behind the gunman who attacked a popular Saudi preacher and a Saudi diplomat more than two weeks ago, but they have come to three initial conclusions: that 21-year-old Misuari Kiliste Rugasan was a newbie hitman; that he was not suicidal; and that the attack was well-planned.
Supt. Luisito Magnaye, the city police director, said the slain gunman, 21-year old Misuari Kiliste Rugasan – an engineering student at the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) here – was just the executioner of the plan to attack Saudi cleric, Dr. Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni, and Saudi religious attaché Sheik Turki Assaegh, on March 1.
“He was just executing the plan and he may have some companions or groups (behind him),” he said.
Rugasan was killed shortly after he fired several shots using a .45 caliber pistol on al-Qarni and Assaegh. Al-Qarni had just delivered a lecture at WMSU when he and Assaegh were attacked.
Both Saudi nationals suffered minor injuries in the attack.
Magnaye said the arrest of two other suspects — Mujer Amilasan Abubakar, a tricycle driver from Barangay Santa Barbara; and Junaide Saleh Cadir, a jobless man from Barangay Taguiti — has provided little information on what group was behind the assassination plot.
He said the police’s resolve in identifying the group behind the gunman came in the wake of some claims that Rugasan had suicidal tendencies.
“We are not buying the idea that he was suicidal at the height of shooting two Arabs. We are convinced that it was a well-planned attack, but the person who executed the plan, this student, was not ready,” Magnaye said.
He said a video that surfaced after the shooting showed that Rugasan was an amateur at guns. “He was not good in holding a gun.”
“He faltered a couple of times, the gun failed to fire and that gave a chance for the driver, who was also a member of the inner security, to wrestle with Rugasan,” Magnaye said.
He said by uncovering the identity of the group, authorities would get to understand how Rugasan, described by relatives and peers as a good guy, had suddenly committed the unthinkable.
In explaining why the police thought that the assassination attempt was planned, Magnaye disclosed that Rugasan “wore layers of clothing.”
It was “an indication that after hitting his target, he had hoped to leave the scene unmolested and change his clothing back to being an ordinary student,” Magnaye said.
Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the military has been helping the police find out more details on Rugasan and his activities to uncover who was behind the assassination plot on al-Qarni and Assaegh.
But he said the military was standing by its earlier statement that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or any ISIS-inspired group had no presence in the city.
“We stand by with our earlier statement, there is no ISIS or locally inspired ISIS,” he said. SFM
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